IELTS

Review: Great Writing

A couple of months ago we ran a two-week ‘Grammar and Writing’ course for teens (aged 14+). I was scheduled to teach these classes but, to be honest, the prospect didn’t fill me with excitement. I enjoy teaching teens in general, but it can be a real chore to motivate them at times. I couldn’t see developing writing skills being that inspiring, and grammar wasn’t exactly going to get them rocking up ten minutes before class in anticipation either.

Well, that was off the mark. There were only 6 students but they were pretty much engaged throughout the two weeks. They produced some excellent work and in a short time I honestly felt like they’d made quite a bit of progress. It’s so nice to actually see improvement in my context – with just two hours a week for each class you never really know what your real impact is. In this case, it seems tangible, and I think the coursebook played a role in that.

Overview

Great Writing 2 from National Geographic Learning is a densely packed 300 pages of introductory material on paragraph writing. It’s actually Book 3 of 6, in a series that covers the basics of sentence construction, spelling and composition, then moves on to paragraphs and a focus on constructing essays.

GW2 is aimed at intermediate level students. In the introduction (to the fourth edition) the authors state that ‘the language level is controlled as much as possible so that dedicated upper beginners and weak advanced students may also benefit from the instruction’. I wouldn’t exactly agree that the resource is accessible for a broad range of levels, more intermediate plus.

There are various vocab and grammar-related activities throughout the resource but the focus is very much on composition. It’s estimated that, depending on the amount of study outside class, the materials could stretch from 60-80 classroom hours. With deviations, additional grammar reviews where needed, more personalisation where necessary and ample time for freer practice (plus peer/self-editing), the book could be the main resource for a course of around 100 hours.

Contents of a unit

The general components for most units include…

Orientation to the writing focus – these are just as useful for teachers as they are for learners. Whatever the writing focus of a unit, this is made clear and fairly student-friendly explanations are provided (for intermediate level). Some of these are great as they make it easy to establish a success criteria for each skill – the list format of some mean they are a ready-made success checklist.

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Reasons to explore your staffroom

What’s your staffroom like? Do you know what’s in all those cupboards and drawers? Is there dust collecting on most of the supplementary materials? What’s in that unlabelled ring binder?

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copyright OUP

I’m lucky to have worked in some really well-stocked staffrooms. I mean, the one in LTC Eastbourne had EVERYTHING – they were hoarders. Never had they thrown out a cassette tape(!), a freebie, a flashcard, a material produced in-house… it was a veritable ELT jungle. Despite the abundance of materials, I rarely explored the bookshelves and cupboards. The day I did… wow! Thirty minutes of rummaging saved me about 10 hours planning in the long run. It also resulted in me trialling ‘Teaching with Bear’, which wasn’t my finest hour. I can’t think why my intermediate adults didn’t take to it…

If I were inducting new staff I’d certainly schedule half an hour of staffroom rummaging. We don’t really make the most of the staffroom resources in my centre. We prepare almost everything on our computers, and search for supplementary materials online. Sure, it’s more convenient. It just that there’s a whole other wall of lesson inspiration just sitting there, and most of us have our backs to it!

So, yesterday I finally turned around. I was right, I knew I’d find something worthwhile. No ‘Teaching with Bear’ though…

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This book by Jamie Keddie was mentioned during my MA module in Materials Development. It’s full of great tasks for making the most of images and sometimes building whole lessons around them. ‘Noun Marriages’ looks like a good task, might give it a go soon…

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This ‘Top Tips for IELTS’ book is quite good too. It’s full of short tasks for practising different skills and strategies. It summaries key information about the course, and has quite a few of those tiny tips that really count for a lot of marks… (more…)

Course Review: How to teach IELTS

I recently completed a course on how to prepare students for the IELTS exam. IELTS course
The course was provided by Cambridge English Teacher (CET).

CET is an online professional development platform which currently offers about 20 courses related to teaching, learning and assessment. They range in length and price, with some only costing a few dollars and requiring only 4 hours of study. There are 6 introductory courses covering different exams in the Cambridge suite – each one requires around 25 hours of study time and costs about $15 (depending on your location).

Why did I take this training course?

My lack of exam teaching, along with my lack of experience teaching Very Young Learners, are two big gaps in my teaching CV. Taking this online course showed my new employer that I was committed to developing my skills in this area, and I was given opportunities to observe and teach IELTS courses almost immediately. (more…)

10 useful websites for ELT

A self-development task during my diploma last year asked me to list all the websites I found useful in my ELT practice. The document I created spanned about 6 pages – it could easily have been longer.

I’m sure there’s a lot of common ground between us teachers, experienced or not. A majority of the sites I use were either found through a Google Search or passed on from colleagues. Nevertheless, I think it’s worth listing a few of my favourite sites as some serve rather specific purposes.

I hope you find at least one new website in the list below. If so, please tell others about it – sharing is caring! (more…)

A fun way to introduce graphs in class

I stumbled across Google Trends on the net last year after reading a blog by Jeremy Kritt. I did a project on Trends back in June, and found it a great resource for lessons.

Google Trends provides information of what people are searching for on the internet. It allows you to explore pretty much any search item, from David Beckham to i-phones, Bognor Regis to Chelsea FC. At the click of a button, you can get information on how popular these search items are on Google, and how that’s changed over the last few days, months or years.

Here’s a search I did a while back for ‘Of Mice and Men’, analysing the popularity of this term in search engines over the previous 90 days. Here’s what I found… (more…)